[OPINION] History of Kpop Boy Groups From 1990s

Kpop has come a long way over the years to become globally recognized in 2019. Looking back from the first generation of idols from the 1990s to now, Kpop idols have always had the burden of being adventurous and trend-setting icons.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5CYZNWjVSGY

With the current trend of older Kpop idol groups making a comeback to the Kpop scene, a lot has changed over the decades. In the 1990s when the first Kpop idol groups started emerging like H.O.T, Sechs Kies, Shinhwa and G.O.D, these idol groups experienced much criticism and love for their music while trying to solidify the upcoming genre, Kpop.

Taking a trip down memory lane towards one’s youth or childhood, there are some groups that can NOT be forgotten! The first generation of idol boy groups who not only created what is today’s Kpop fandom culture but also the foundation for the Hallyu wave! While there are many idols that deserve to be considered legends for each decade (1990s, 2000s, 2010s), these specific groups mentioned in this article were selected based on hours of research, personal memory, today’s popularity/activities and such! As a result, many may not agree with the listing or feel some idol groups should have been mentioned. Please note this is solely the opinion of the writer who may be biased with childhood memories of watching these groups in variety shows like SBS’s X-Men (2003-2007), SBS’s Love Letter (2004-2006) etc!

First generation of Kpop boy groups (1990s)

H.O.T (1996-2001, 2018-present)

SBS

Finding anyone who doesn’t know H.O.T would be rare in the Kpop scene. H.O.T is considered the first ever Kpop idol group that was formed by SM Entertainment. Even TVN’s hit drama series ‘Reply 1997’ (2012) has many references to H.O.T where the female lead is a die-hard fan of H.O.T’s Tony.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZMkmlwgsCY

To signify how much importance H.O.T has in Korean culture, H.O.T had their reunion in 2018 through the famous variety show, MBC’s ‘Infinity Challenge’ (2005-2018).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1GqIxImIF7E

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fgbG-zPpt7w

After H.O.T made their comeback in 17 years on ‘Infinity Challenge’, H.O.T went on to hold their comeback concert in Seoul where fans and idols took a trip back to their youth in the 90s.

Secks Kies (1997-2000, 2016-present)

YG

The second idol group in Kpop history, aka H.O.T’s rival, played an important role for shaping Kpop fandom. The power of Kpop fans gave rise to allowing artists to venture into other fields within the entertainment industry. Secks Kies was the first idol group to film their own movie, perform in a musical and perform at the Blue House for the president serving during that time.

Clip of H.O.T vs. Sech Kies fan war from Reply 1997 Kdrama

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uNoNi_BkWaM

Secks Kiss also made their comeback in 2016 as guests on MBC’s ‘Infinity Challenge’ through a guerrilla concert. It was reported news of Secks Kies’s reunion was shared only 5 hours before the concert, which still managed to gather 6000 fans.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQPNoDDDVR0

To really get an idea for what it was like in the 1990s during the reign of H.O.T and Sechs Kies, I HIGHLY recommend watching TVN’s Reply 1997. It is pretty accurate in depicting how severe or passionate Kpop fandom culture already was back then. Not to mention, this drama in addition to the rest of the Reply series (1997, 1994, 1988) are really great dramas to watch whether to understand Korean culture or to reminisce about your past.

Shinhwa (1998-present)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4rQGj_ztOOM

The role model of many idols, the longest active boy group in Kpop history, Shinhwa is the idol group who showed versatility to be possible for Kpop idols. It is common for idol groups to keep to their “color” or “style” but Shinhwa has proven the key to longevity to be due to the constant rebranding and continuous creativity among other things. Shinhwa formed their own company Shinhwa Company with Minwoo and Eric as co-CEOs managing their activities as a group confirming the brotherhood among the members.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BsDlbial4SQ/

Shinhwa members are well known for their talents in various areas in the entertainment industry. Not only are they immensely popular for their appearances on variety shows, each member has successfully proven their talents in various areas like dramas, movies, musicals, producing and much more!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=figebKjmTFo

Shinhwa is extremely talented and everyone has such a great relationship, it is no wonder the group has made history by being the longest active Kpop idol group! They spend infinite amounts of time and effort for fans, one of the most noteworthy would be that they have a concert every year. In 2019, it will be their 21st anniversary since debut.

G.O.D (1999-present)

Google

JYP’s first idol group G.O.D has never disbanded, however they were previously on an extended hiatus as each member pursed their solo careers. G.O.D is known for their iconic songs that really reflected Korean culture in the early 2000s amassing fans from various age groups. Labeled as the “nation’s idols” that used lyrics described as  “storytelling,” many of their songs are still remembered as iconic Korean songs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72BqCAmhnxk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXkhIODcvuM

G.O.D is considered to be part of the legendary first generation Kpop idol groups among H.O.T, Seck’s Kiss and Shinhwa.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d6RXGKRmO6I

G.O.D’s songs are one of the best songs to sing in karaoke regardless of how old the songs are. The songs are still relatable and relevant amidst the 4th industrial revolution, simply “classic songs.”

Kpop Boy Groups of the 2000s

Super Junior (2005-present)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jAaWj_C2iPE

The iconic Kpop idol group that broke the stereotype by consisting of many members even 13 at one point. Super Junior can be considered to be one of the earliest hallyu idols that paved the path for Kpop to become globally recognized. Not only are they a household name today in 2019 but their everlasting popularity in Korea and abroad is something many idols aim for.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6QA3m58DQw

Super Junior can be considered one of the examples of successful subgroups that has proven to create more opportunities for the idols to showcase their talents outside of their group activities. After dominating Asia, Super Junior has proven their reigning power as iconic Kpop idols by their amazing success in Latin America even releasing songs in English, Korean and Spanish!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbB4SYJNuTo

Super Junior was one of the first idol groups with so many members creating the opportunity to market to so many different preferences. Each member had their own unique remarkable characteristics that would appeal to nearly anyone. Frankly, it was a genius move by SM and now we have idol groups that follow this strategy! (Thank you SM!)

Big Bang (2006-present)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RAKGzAIl0mY

YG’s first idol group aka “Kings of Kpop” and the MVPs for setting the Hallyu wave ablaze internationally, especially outside of Asia, Big Bang is the group who continuously redefined what ‘KPOP’ is by experimenting out of the norm while expressing their individuality.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MzCbEdtNbJ0

Big Bang is renowned for writing their own songs which plays a significant role for their success.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ips2mM7Zqw

Not only is the group incredible for having so many No.1 songs but also their success promoting as subunits and soloists unbelievable that has become something to strive for the following generation of idols. Is there anyone who doesn’t know Taeyang’s Eyes, Nose, Lips or GD’s Coup d’etat?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UwuAPyOImoI

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8T6771Sdj8&index=25&list=PL0D12C278EAF39032&t=0s

Just thinking of Big Bang, the concept of swag, hip, fast beats, clubs and parties come to mind. While is it sad to see that most of the members are still serving mandatory military service, it won’t be long before they will be back!

SHINee (2008-present)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJq_1x-m9sY

The boy band of SM aka the “Princes of Kpop” who set the standard for live performances with complex dance moves, Shinee contrasts crucially with other groups of the 2000s. Not only is this group experimental with their music exploring various genres, they are also considered the “aesthetic,” “artistic,” “beautiful” group through their choreography, concepts and wardrobes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dww9UjJ4Dt8

With the sad passing of member Jonghyun (RIP) in 2017, Shinee will never be the same. However, Shinee’s songs as a quintet, Jonghyun’s legacy remains as numerous fans continue to love and cheer for Shinee.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J41qe-TM1DY

Shinee will forever be that scarred part of my Kpop love. They have had to regroup after the unfortunate experience of losing a member, however I fervently hope that they will be able to recover not only for themselves and fans but also for the legacy of JH to not be forgotten in the future.

Kpop Boy Groups of Today (2010s)

With less than 10 months before the end of the current decade, there are so many boy groups who debuted and deserve to be listed as THE boy group of 2010s. While many would want to nominate for their favorite group, I would say based on the past 110 months (2010-2019.2), EXO and BTS are the ones who will be considered the “legends” of 2010s in Kpop history years from now.

EXO (2012-present)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HizQP02WL1s

BTS (2013-present)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6UlRDcA93g

Is there anyone in the Kpop scene who doesn’t know EXO and BTS? EXO is the 3rd generation of SM’s beloved idol boy group taking on the baton from their seniors H.O.T, Shinhwa, Super Junior and Shinee. BTS is without a doubt the “titans of Kpop” if my 90 year old grandmother knows who they are because of the Korean news. So many records were broken and so much history was made by these two idol groups during this decade, I personally would like to bet some dough on whether BTS or EXO will show up in the history or business books in the near future. Having heard that UC Berkley is offering a DeCal class on BTS from a friend attending UCB, my odds of winning are very high. 

Looking back on Kpop idols from the 1990s, Kpop itself is still pretty young with so much potential for growth. As a passionate Kpop fan who grew up with the first generation of Kpop idols on my TV screen in the 1990s and 2000s, I genuinely hope that there will be a day when Kpop music can be heard on the radio (outside of Korean radio stations) abroad.

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Disclaimer: The opinions or views contained in this article may not represent the opinions or views of Kpoplove, The Korea Daily, its employees, agents or affiliates.

Sechs Kies Fans File Lawsuit Against Kang Sung-Hoon and Fan Club “Hoony World”

A significant portion of Sechs Kies fans is filing a lawsuit against Kang Sung-Hoon and his fan club “Hoony World” for fraud and embezzlement.

On November 12, Sechs Kies fans paid a visit to the Seoul Central District Prosecutor’s office to file an official complaint against Kang Sung-Hoon and his fan club, Hoony World.

The fans accused the singer of embezzling the profits of a video screening event for Sechs Kies’ 20th anniversary on April 15, 2017. Moreover, the fan club received the allegations of falsely labeling the profits as donation, when in fact, it was embezzled profits.

In response, Kang Sung-Hoon denied all allegations. His legal representative Cho Dae-Jin delivered the official stance of the singer on November 13.

Cho said, “Kang Sung-Hoon has nothing to do with the case of Hoony World and the video event hosted for the 20th anniversary of Sechs Kies. The singer did not attend the event nor was he directly involved in organizing the event. We will reveal the truth as soon as the police work for the case comes to light regarding the investigation of Hoony World.”

Image Source – Hoony World

Meanwhile, all controversies of Kang Sung-Hoon began when he canceled his fan meeting in Taiwan without notice and failed to provide appropriate refunds to fans. Afterwards, the news of the poor management of Hoony World came to light, some accusing the singer of dating the owner of his fan club for personal benefits.

After remaining silent for a few weeks, Kang shared his thoughts in a 8-page handwritten letter to fans on November 4. However, the singer continued to avoid his fans in real life, eventually skipping out on Sechs Kies concert in October.

Original Article (1), (2)
Translated by Dasol Kim

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Sechs Kies Kang Sung-Hoon Addresses all Events and Apologize in Handwritten Letter

Kang Sung-Hoon has finally opened up about all rumors and apologized in a long, handwritten letter.

Sechs Kies member Kang Sung-Hoon recently took to his personal fan cafe ‘Hoony World’ and posted a 8-page long handwritten letter. In the letter, the singer addressed all events and issues, including the cancellation of his fan meeting in Taiwan, as well as the rumors that he is having a personal relationship with the moderator of Hoony World.

The following is the letter from Kang Sung-Hoon:

Hello, this is Kang Sung-Hoon. I apologize for taking so long to write back to all my fans, who have nothing but supported and trusted me until now. A lot of things and events happened in the past month, and I know how hard it has been hard for both me and my trusting fans to take it all in every day.

First of all, I would like to sincerely apologize to my fans, who should be reading this letter right now, and the people who have paid much attention to me. I’m sorry for causing such an uproar with past events and rumors.

I want to make sure that my sincerity will not be distorted in any way, so I will deliver my apology in the most natural way that I’ve always used to express my feelings until now. I hope there is no more misunderstanding, so please keep an open mind and don’t read between the lines.

I’m also afraid that this letter will spread to places other than the one we share (Hoony World), but because I’m only addressing the people I care the most about, I’ll write with comfort.

Image Source – Hoony World
I know I asked you to give me some time, but I apologize for taking too long.

I’ve read every single comment that you guys wrote. After reading those comments, I kept on writing and deleting many letters, and I kept thinking about what is the best way to deliver my apology. I hesitated because I worried that no one would believe me no matter what I had to say. Because of that, I took a lot longer than I expected, and I truly apologize.

To be honest, no matter what I write, it won’t describe the exact emotions and thoughts I have at the moment. However, it would have been very selfish of me to just keep you guys waiting, so I’ve finally gathered up the courage to write the letter.

After a long wait, we miraculously met again.

Because it took so long for us to get here again, I wanted it to last forever. However, it’s only been 3 years before you had to encounter these unfortunate events. I know it’s all you guys who made it possible for Sechs Kies to get back together and feel this undeserving love. I’m so thankful for each and one of you.

It was up to me to keep up with the relationship that you have granted me, and I should have paid more attention to the words you’ve said to me and the advice you’ve given to me. Now that I look back at it, I feel so much regret. And of course, nothing will change no matter how regretful I am right now. I never meant for any of this to happen, but that probably sounds like another excuse to you. At the moment, I still worry that some of you will misunderstand the purpose of this letter and I’m not at the right state of mind to determine whether this is the right thing to do or not.

It was tough for me to watch these rumors that are not even true spread around.

However, I kept thinking how hard it must have been fore you, and I felt truly apologetic. I was trying to figure out what I can do to lessen the pain that you must have been feeling and if there was something I could do to take it all in, I would have. No matter what the truth it, I’m sorry you had to go through all the emotions and feelings you felt because of me.

Because I was afraid that these dreamy days of seeing you could all so suddenly disappear again, I had the desire to see you as often as possible. Every event, I didn’t want to say good bye so I went overtime. I should have been more careful and prepare for better contents and better environment. My desire to see you all in person made me get ahead of myself.

Every moment I’ve spent with you, I had nothing but a sincere heart.

I cherish them all. I wanted to be close to you, so I did not realize some of the things I’ve said could have hurt someone. To everyone I have hurt through my actions and speech, I’m truly sorry.

The thing that most hurt me was when I heard this. They accused me of thinking you as my financial provider, I looked down on you, and I was ignorant towards you. That was never the case. I was always speaking with an honest heart and I really hope you know that. Even when some of you told me not to trust my fans too much, I was thinking, “who better to trust than my fans?”

It’s my duty to let you hear only good things, but instead, you heard words like ‘crime,’ ’embezzlement,’ and ‘scam.’ I’m so sorry. However, the truth hasn’t been revealed yet, and I will try my best to make it see the light. I don’t ask you to just sit tight and wait around for me. I’ll try to make you understand what is the truth and what is not. And regarding this part, I strictly and strongly emphasize that I have done nothing wrong.

Now, could I ask you to just trust and wait for me?

Regarding the people who are calling me a criminal, even though the truth hasn’t come out yet, I have turned over everything to my lawyers so the can take legal action against them. I want to do my best so that you won’t be hurt again. Time passes by no matter what, but I should have held your hands. I know it sounds silly, but I couldn’t dare hold your hands and ask for your trust.

I wanted to make only good memories so that when this journey finally ends some day, you would have good memories because you liked a person named Kang Sung-Hoon. Every event that caused an uproar is due to my fault, and I’m reflecting upon my past behaviors. If I get a chance to show you an upgraded, and more matured side of me, I promise to not let you down.

I’m sorry for not participating on the upcoming event. It feels like a dream that I actually turned down the chance to see you because I did not have the courage to smile and sing in front of you. I’ll take responsibility for the parts I am responsible for.

Also, I want to make sure that you know the rumors about fan contact, embezzling, and my relationship with the staff are all false. After I have organized everything in order, I will tell you the truth. As soon as everything is settled, Hoony World will also undergo a change of staff. We will only keep the space until everything is organized and afterwards, Hoony World will..

You are more special to me than anything in the world.

I’m so happy that I have you guys by my side. When I looked at you, whom I wouldn’t exchange for anything, I felt like I was dreaming and everything in the world seemed so beautiful. That’s how happy I was.

I don’t know when we will meet again, but until that day, please stay healthy. I promised we wouldn’t get separated again, but I’m sorry for hurting you with such unfortunate events. If the day miraculously comes that we see each other again, I hope we can meet with a smile on our faces.

Original Article
Translated by Dasol Kim

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Kang Sung-Hoon to be Absent from Upcoming Sechs Kies Concert

YG announces that Kang Sung-Hoon will be absent from the upcoming Sechs Kies concert.

On September 21, YG Entertainment announced that Kang Sung-Hoon will not participate in the upcoming Sechs Kies concert in October. After many thoughts and discussions, the singer expressed his desire to skip out on the concert due to personal issues.

According to the agency, Kang Sung-Hoon independently decided that he cannot get up on stage due to personal issues. With the concert approaching quickly, Kang determined that he doesn’t have time to prepare good enough of a performance to satisfy his fans.

Even though the rest of Sechs Kies members expressed their regret at first, they eventually came to understand Kang’s point of view and accepted his decision. On the other hand, the members will have to reorganize the whole concert in less than a month.

As a result, members will have to return their holiday break in order to practice performing without Kang Sung-Hoon. Another member will have to come in place to take care of Kang’s part, and reorganize the choreography.

In addition, YG Entertainment announced that the comeback of Sechs Kies has also been pushed back. The agency said, “we were in the process of recording the new tracks. However, due to unfortunate events, we have decided to push back the date of the group’s comeback. We truly hope that all misunderstandings and controversies will be resolved as soon as possible.”

Meanwhile, Kang Sung-Hoon recently became the talk of the town when his fans accused him for taking advantage of their money. The singer had reportedly canceled a solo fan meeting without a proper fund, and many argued that he had committed fraud against them.

Original Article
Translated by Dasol Kim

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YG Responds to Controversies Regarding Sechs Kies Kang Sung-Hoon

YG says they will “carefully look into all matters regarding Sechs Kies member Kang Sung-Hoon, and provide solutions as fast as possible.”

On September 11, Sechs Kies member Kang Sung-Hoon became the topic of the town when various rumors regarding him arose to the surface. The controversies addressed the singer’s alleged romantic relationship with the president of his fan club, as well as his cancelled fan meet in Taiwan.

The rumors sparked when the artist cancelled his solo fan meeting in Taiwan early September. According to sources, the event was organized by Kang Sung-Hoon himself with support from his fan club Hoony World, and local organizers. However, the fan meet was abruptly cancelled, without the fans receiving the proper refunds.

In response, a source from Kang Sung-Hoon claimed that the artist did not receive the visa in time for the fan meeting, which was all entirely the fault of the local organizers. They also announced that they have filed a legal complaint regarding the mistakes of these organizers.

However, a few Taiwanese news outlets reported that Kang Sung-Hoon has a personal relationship with the president of Hoony World, and the two have been committing fraud against his fans. In response, the singer wrote to the fan club, “I will say rumor is just a rumor. I don’t see the need to explain further. It’s not worth mentioning and I want you all to stop reading too much to it.”

After remaining silent for a while, YG finally releases a response.

The following is the response from YG Entertainment:

This is YG Entertainment.

We hereby express our deep regret about the upsetting news regarding Kang Sung-Hoon’s solo fan meeting.

Until now, Kang Sung-Hoon has been hosting his solo fan meeting all by himself. However, YG will carefully look into all matters and provide solutions as soon as possible to prevent further damage.

Original Article (1), (2)
Translated by Dasol Kim

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Sechs Kies Fans Accuse Kang Sung-hoon of Dating Fan Club President

Sechs Kies’ member Kang Sung-hoon is in hot water for allegedly dating the president of his fan club.

YG Entertainment

The members of Kang Sung-hoon’s fan club, Hoony World, has recently brought up the clues for the artist’s girlfriend. According to the fans’ accusation, the artist is dating the president of his fan club.

Rumors say that the alleged girlfriend has been spotted with Kang Sung-hoon several times for his family events like weddings. In addition, fans point out that the company name for the fan club, which is “Forever 2228,” is the combination of the star’s birthday and the fan club president’s birthday.

Furthermore, fans claim that he was spotted with the alleged girlfriend in a hotel room. While on Instagram Live, according to the claim, the artist accidentally revered his camera, which caught the woman for a brief moment.

The dating rumor put the artist in hotter water as the fan club has been causing controversies for its poor management.

Kang Sung-hoon recently wrote to the fan club, “About the recent girlfriend rumor, I will say rumor is a rumor. I don’t think I need to explain further. It isn’t worth mentioning and I want you all to stop reading too much into it.”

Meanwhile, Kang Sung-hoon’s agency YG Entertainment has not released an official statement about the rumor.

 

By Heewon Kim

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YG and Netflix Original Sitcom ‘YG Electronics’ Confirms Broadcasting in October

YG Entertainment and Netflix have joined forces together for the upcoming original Sitcom, “YG Electronics”

YG Entertainment has announced that the original Netflix sitcom featuring BIGBANG’s Seungri “YG Electronics” confirmed to premiere on October 5. This upcoming reality sitcom will feature BIABANG’s Seungri, who dreams of becoming number 1 entrepreneur/artist in YG Entertainment, but suddenly gets demoted to YG’s strategy center.

YG’s strategy center is a department that everyone wants to avoid going into at YG Entertainment. From his downgraded position, Seungri struggles to save the department in order to make his glorious return to the headquarters.

Aside from BIGBANG’s Seungri, other YG artists have confirmed appearances. The cast includes BLACKPINK, iKon, WINNER, and rapper Won, as well as Yoo Byung-Jae, and Lee Jai-Jin of Sechs Kies.

Producer Park Joon-Su, who has produced many B-grade TV programs such as “God of music” and “Enemy of Broadcasting” has taken on total charge of producing. Moreover, Kim Min-Suk, known for his writings at “SNL Korea” participated as the program’s main screenwriter.

Meanwhile, “YG Electronics” starring BIGBANG’s Seungri will premiere on October 5, exclusively on Netflix.

Image Source – “YG Electronics”

Original Article
Translated by Dasol Kim

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Sechs Kies Eun Ji-Won’s Father Passes Away

Sehcs Kies member Eun Ji-Won’s father has passed away.

On August 6, YG Entertainment revealed the passing of Eun Ji-Won’s father. The agency said, “Eun Ji-Won’s father passed away on September 5. In consideration of the family’s wishes, the funeral will take place privately at their residence.”

The agency continued, “the singer is currently at the wake by his father’s side. The funeral will take place on September 7. May his soul rest in peace.”

Meanwhile, the Sechs Kies member is currently preparing for a group concert, scheduled to take place on October 13 and 14 at the Seoul Olympic Gymnastics Arena. Moreover, he is actively promoting on various TV programs, including MBC’s “Unexpected Q” and upcoming season of JTBC’s “New Journey to the West.”

Original Article
Translated by Dasol Kim

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[Teaser] YG Entertainment Drops a ‘SECHS KIES 2018 CONCERT’ Video Clip

Sechs Kies once again create a yellow ocean of emotion with their fans.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2LxZWwyuz8

On August 15, YG Entertainment released a teaser video for ‘SECHS KIES 2018 CONCERT’ on its official SNS channels and official blog.

In the short clip, the enthusiastic support of the group’s fans is almost palpable. The fandom’s long-sustained love, support, and passion for the singers are visible is the ocean of yellow made dotted with cheering light sticks and balloons.

Notably, and most excitingly, at the end of the teaser, the entertainment company raised expectations with an announcement. The words “See You Soon” ends the clip, hinting at the groups 2018 concert.

Regarding the teaser, a YG Entertainment representative said that the boy group “always prepares [for] concerts with a lot of emotion” with helps to create colorful performances. A part of their enthusiastic and enthralling show can be credited to “memorable hit songs” but also “trendy choreography stage manners,” the agency explained.

Sechs Kies continues to demonstrate the level of their popularity that has last two decades. Last year, the group celebrated their 20th anniversary to a sold-out stadium.

 

 

Original article

Translated by O.C

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[OPINION] Just Like Fashion Trends, K-Pop Has Come Full Circle

Just like fashion trends, K-pop has come full circle. With the growing popularity of K-pop in both domestic and international music industry, people are finally starting to acknowledge K-pop as a music genre, as well as a cultural phenomenon.

While BigHit Entertainment’s seven-headed monster BTS contributed much to spreading greatness of K-pop all over the world, we have to understand that they were able to do so, only because K-pop has come full circle.

In fact, if there is one group to whom they should credit their fame, it is Seo Taeji and Boys, as known as the “President of Culture” from the early 1990’s.

As some of you already know, K-pop was greatly influenced by the Western pop in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. While the government had strict regulations on music in Korea for most of the 1900’s, the 1987 reform changed everything.

TV stations started to expand their entertainment contents, making American music more available and easily accessible to the public. Furthermore, talent shows on TV became increasingly popular – like present day Inkigayo, Show! Music Core, or Music Bank.

Then comes a South Korean trio “Seo Taeiji and Boys” in 1992, wearing Western Hip Hop attire with rap style like Americans, but conveying message strictly in Korean.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKK0UEu4Q5g

Because the material they brought to the stage was so new, the audiences loved them. Afterwards, their debut song “I Know” topped major charts in the country for several weeks, officially marking the beginning of “K-pop” we know now.

The trio used the power of their lyrics to challenge the status quo, especially regarding social and political issues. They expressed the problems as a part of the youth community in South Korea, often blaming the government for the troubles.  In response, the government tried to censor their lyrics, which failed because of the pushback from the fans.

Afterwards, three major entertainment companies arose, which stay prominent until now: SM, YG, and JYP.

Image Source – Korea Portal

The rest is what you would know as a fan of K-pop. SM first stepped in and created 1st generation idols, such as H.O.T and S.E.S, followed by BOA in 2000. Then comes the rise of TVXQ, BIGBANG, Girls’ Generation, Wonder Girls, SHINee, and 2NE1 in the 2000’s.

While “K-Pop” in the 1990’s mainly focused on the music, often borrowing the style from the Western pop and substituting the lyrics to fit the culture of Korea, the definition of “K-Pop” in the 2000’s has definitely changed.

Starting with the second generation of K-pop idols, the genre started to put more emphasis on the image, visual, and performance.

Image Source – SM Entertainment

Now, they focus on perfecting a “knife-like” choreography, coming up with catchy melodies, and pouring money into shaping their “idol-like” image. They did so by borrowing outfits from the Western trends, for which fans went wild, trying to copy their “idols” the best as they could.

From this, “image” arguably became the most important feature of “K-Pop,” which was now not only a music genre, but also a cultural phenomenon. Afterwards, the government decided to take part in this, even dedicating a whole government department to K-pop.

They built schools to train kids to sing, dance, and audition in hopes of becoming an idol. Once they signed a contract with companies, the idols had to hand over the control of their image to the management, including rehearsal schedules, dieting, and restrictions on romantic relationships. This is what they had to pay in order to gain the fame they desired.

While image still plays a big role in “K-Pop,” I believe that BTS did otherwise.

Just like Seo Taiji and Boys did in the 1990’s, BTS challenged the injustice in the society. They expressed the frustrations of young people and tried to push the boundary limits of Korea’s music industry. Their name “Bangtan Sonyeondan” literally translates to “bulletproof boy scouts,” and has a meaning of “protecting the youth from prejudice and oppression” from the society. Their debut song “No More Dream” talks about how young people’s aspiration and dreams are already set by their parents. Moreover, their school trilogy focused on the problems Korean high school and college students struggle through.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBG5L7UsUxA

If you are a true Army, you would know that BTS was not a big deal when they first debuted. At the time, SM had just debuted their 13-member boy group, EXO, who instantly gained fame. BTS, who debuted under Big Hit, a small company with absolutely no power in the market compared to SM, had not much to compete with.

But BTS couldn’t care less.

They continued to push forwards with their own unique sound, hoping to have a positive influence on the Korean society. For example, the group remade Seo Taiji’s song “Come Back Home” from 1995, substituting the original lyrics to their own, to talk about the frustrations of today’s youth.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2vJFn10XLQM

In my opinion, the lyrics of BTS songs take partial credit for their success. The lyrics allowed fans to find deeper meaning in their music. They allowed the fans to feel like their opinions were understood, heard, and expressed. The group made sure the fans felt connected to them on a common ground, just like Seo Taiji and Boys did in the 1990’s.

Image Source – YG Entertainment, weheartit.com

Besides BTS, many idol groups are secretly slipping in social commentary into their songs. While they don’t do it as bluntly as BTS, it is still happening. The girl groups are throwing out their cute and innocent origins to embrace more rebellious attire. The boy groups replacing their sweet words with socially aware lyrics. Just like past fashion trends are making comebacks, so is K-pop.

By. Dasol Kim

Disclaimer: The opinions or views contained in this article may not represent the opinions or views of Kpoplove, The Korea Daily, its employees, agents or affiliates.